The FAA is developing a program to conduct Wildlife Hazard Assessments at approximately 2,000 general aviation airports.
The FAA expects this program to begin later this year, in a phased-in approach that will take several years to complete because of the large number of assessments required. The FAA will make AIP funding available for these assessments, according to officials with the agency.
The assessments are part of new initiatives enacted after the US Airways Flight 1549 bird strike and emergency landing in the Hudson River last January.
One of those initiatives was making the FAA’s entire bird strike database available to the public for the first time. Prior to last April, only portions of the database were publicly available. The FAA began collecting data in the 1990s for use by the FAA’s Office of Airports, academia, and researchers as a means to improve airport safety and reduce wildlife hazards, officials noted.
In June, the FAA issued a certification alert to airport operators, reminding them of their obligation to conduct Wildlife Hazard Assessments if they experience a “triggering event,” such as an air carrier experiencing multiple wildlife strikes or substantial damage from striking wildlife, wildlife being ingested into the engine of an air carrier, or wildlife of any size, or in any numbers, capable of causing any of those problems.
The FAA identified 96 airports that had experienced these types of events but had not conducted an assessment. As of December, approximately 16 airports had completed assessments, 51 had begun assessments, and 21 are slated to begin assessments this year.
Meanwhile, in May, the FAA tasked SRA International, Inc., a provider of information technology service, and Richard Dolbeer, Ph.D., a world renowned wildlife hazard mitigation expert, to review its National Wildlife Strike Database. The FAA wanted to determine the current level of wildlife strike reporting; the level of voluntary strike reporting necessary to develop national trends; whether mandatory strike reporting is necessary; and how the FAA could increase its data collection.
In a December report, Dolbeer estimated that the total number of strikes reported has increased from 20% in 1990-1994 to 39% from 2004-2008. The majority of strike reports are filed at Part 139 airports, with approximately 6% at general aviation airports. Dolbeer determined that 39% is sufficient for the FAA to develop national trends and mitigation policies, concluding that mandatory reporting is not required.
The FAA also retooled its wildlife hazard website, so it now has search fields that enable users to find data on specific airports, airlines, engine types, as well as date and state without having to download the entire database.
In addition the FAA is developing software that would allow anyone to file a wildlife strike report using handheld mobile devices.
The FAA is also continuing to work with the Smithsonian, military and aircraft manufacturers to identify bird species using remains from strikes. Bird identification helps airfield personnel put together habitat management programs that discourage birds from nesting on airfields and provides information to aircraft manufacturers so they can better design engines and aircraft to withstand bird collisions, FAA officials said.
The FAA also is continuing its work with the USDA to make airports safer by reducing the risks of aircraft-wildlife collisions. Research efforts designed to improve wildlife management techniques and practices on and near airports include:
- Methods for making airport habitats less attractive to species that are the most dangerous in terms of aircraft collisions. This is accomplished by studying which species use the airport property, how they behave in that environment, and why they are attracted
- Techniques for controlling species by restricting access to attractive features like storm water ponds
- Technologies for harassing and deterring hazardous species